Before calling his final game, longtime Orioles radio broadcaster Fred Manfra cherishes memories

The Baltimore Sun

Memories from his career flashed through Orioles radio announcer Fred Manfra’s mind Sunday as he drove to Camden Yards.

There were his first-day nerves when he started full-time in 1993. He remembered the excitement covering festivities for Cal Ripken Jr.'s major league record-breaking 2,131st consecutive game.

Manfra even thought about the beginning of this season, when he threw the ceremonial first pitch Opening Day.

That was about two months after Manfra announced that he was stepping down from full-time broadcasting duties because of health problems. Sunday’s call against the Red Sox was his last, leaving the veteran radio personality with nostalgia for his accomplished career.

“You finally realize how much a part of the fabric of a city and a populous of a city when you’re a radio broadcaster,” Manfra said. “You’re sitting with them in their backyards at cookouts. You’re out on the bay with them as they’re fishing.”

Manfra planned to work through the end of June, but his house in Fallston sold quickly, and the new family moved in at the end of May.

That led to a few-night stay in a hotel so he could close the weekend before moving into a house in Culbreath Bayou in Tampa, Fla., to be closer to his daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren.

The hotel stay was the same way he started his full-time Baltimore tenure.

He had held a fill-in play-by-play role for WBAL’s broadcasts in the 1970s, and later worked for ABC, covering professional sports and the Olympics.

When he returned home in 1993 — Manfra is a Patterson graduate — he soon became one of the most recognizable voices around the team.

He used to listen to former Orioles broadcaster Chuck Thompson call games while playing outside his East Baltimore childhood home and would sneak his transistor radio into bed at night.

That taught him the sport and developed his love for broadcasting, Manfra said, which he used when teaming with Joe Angel to form one of the longest-tenured broadcasting duos.

MASN broadcaster Jim Hunter will play a large role in filling Manfra’s spot.

“I’m gonna miss him,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “Fifty years. You going to do this 50 years and be as good at it as he was or is? Fred’s a good listen.”

Manfra, however, had trouble maintaining the team’s grueling schedule after two hip replacement surgeries in 2014 and a back surgery. He expects to need two knee replacements in the future but plans to attend Orioles games when they travel to Tampa.

“You don’t know as a broadcaster how many lives you touch until you start making your way around the city and it’s time to say goodbye,” Manfra said. “And then it comes to life.”

That was evident when Manfra received a standing ovation when he was recognized on the videoboard before the fourth inning Sunday, with the entire Orioles dugout looking to the press box broadcast level and clapping, and several players on the field joining in as well.

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